The biggest news that happened at the NBA trade deadline last week was the deal that sent Ben Simmons to the Brooklyn Nets and James Harden to the Philadelphia 76ers. The move gave two disgruntled stars a fresh start. Harden isn't expected to make his Sixers debut until after the All-Star break as he continues to deal with a hamstring injury, and Tuesday morning during an introductory press conference Simmons said that there's no set date yet on his debut for the Nets.
"I don't have a date yet, but I'm working towards getting back on the floor," said Simmons, who had not previously spoken publicly since the 76ers' playoff exit last June. "No date yet, but I'm starting to ramp it up."
Though there isn't a timetable for Simmons' return, he did say that he is hoping he will be on the floor when the Nets go on the road against the Sixers on March 10 -- a game Philly fans have circled on their calendar.
“I hope so”— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) February 15, 2022
-Ben Simmons says he hopes to play in Philly at Wells Fargo Center March 10
He says being mentally ready is an ongoing process pic.twitter.com/HUPT69JwFs
Simmons also touched on his exit from Philadelphia, though he didn't go into too much detail on the situation. Prior to the start of the season it was heavily reported that Simmons wanted out of the Sixers organization after a disappointing second-round exit from the playoffs where Simmons' performance was widely criticized. Comments made by Philadelphia head coach Doc Rivers, as well as former teammate Joel Embiid were seen as subtle jabs aimed at Simmons, and the All-Star guard reportedly had an issue with how he was being scapegoated for the team's loss.
However, Tuesday morning Simmons said that none of that was the reason he requested a trade from the team.
"It wasn't about the fans or coaches or comments made by anybody, it was just a personal thing for me," Simmons said. "That was earlier than that [playoff] series, or even that season that I was dealing with, and that organization knew that. So it's something that I continue to deal with, and I'm getting there and getting to the right place to get back on the floor."
When asked again to give a bit more detail about what led to his decision to request a trade, Simmons remained vague, but reiterated that it wasn't just one thing, and that it had been building for several years.
"I don't think it was really [one thing], it more so just piled up a bunch of things that have gone over the years to where I just knew I wasn't myself," Simmons said. "I needed to get back to that place of being myself, and being happy as a person and taking care of my well being. That was the major thing for me. It wasn't about the basketball. It wasn't about the money, anything like that. I want to be who I am and get back to playing basketball at that level and being myself."
Simmons' mental health had been cited as the reason he didn't play with the Sixers this season, something he admitted to Tuesday morning. The All-Star guard also said that he felt like Philadelphia wasn't the right situation where he could get back to that place of feeling like himself. Though his mental health had been an overarching topic in his time away from the game, Simmons said that wasn't the reason he requested a trade.
"The mental health had nothing to do with just the trade," Simmons said. "It was a bunch of things I was dealing with as a person in my personal life that I don't really want to go into depth. But I'm here now, so it's a blessing to be in an organization like this, and I'm just looking forward to getting back on the floor and building something great here."
In regards to some people saying that Simmons was faking his mental health issues, he spoke of how difficult the last six months have been for him, and noted that there needs to be change in how athletes and mental health is addressed.
"I've had some dark times over these last six months, and I'm just happy to be in this situation with this team and organization," Simmons said. "People are going to say what they want, they've said it the last six months and I haven't commented. I don't think people really understand the -- I don't even look at it as pressure. There's just so many things going on within you know, basketball and life as people but it is what it is. I also understand the business, I understand all that. But [mental health] is something that should be acknowledged and addressed. If [people] do feel like they need help in areas it's OK to do that."